Provincial safety officials and the contractor hired to demolish the old Janeway hospital in Pleasantville clashed over the presence of asbestos contaminating the site, according to government documents obtained by The Telegram.
The contractor - Kelloway Construction Ltd. - cited environmental studies it commissioned that supported the contention there was little reason to worry about asbestos contamination there.
Kelloway sent a four-page letter appealing a series of provincial safety orders that halted demolition work last fall.
Meanwhile, the province repeatedly issued safety directives about the site, stopping work at the old Janeway on two separate occasions. Senior government officials ultimately rejected the contractor's plea to have compliance orders lifted.
And an environmental report commissioned by the province and completed two months ago concluded that "the entire demolition site is considered to be contaminated."
The government documents provide a behind-the-scenes look at a long-running conflict over the demolition of the old Janeway.
Provincial officials have been tight-lipped about the matter, previously refusing to release environmental reports related to the site. Transportation and Works Minister Trevor Taylor said in April it would be "premature" to do so.
Using provincial access to information laws, The Telegram obtained correspondence between the government and the contractor, occupational health and safety reports and the provincially-commissioned environmental review of the site.
Click here to download PDFs of several documents referenced in this story.
An official with Kelloway Construction declined comment.
"As you may well be aware, the contract precludes any public or media disclosures on all of that," Hubert Alacoque, project manager with Kelloway, wrote in an e-mail.
The government says work on the site is continuing, in accordance with the contract and safety orders.
In December 2007, the province awarded Kelloway Construction a $924,129 contract for the environmental remediation and demolition of the former Janeway hospital building.
The first apparent issue surfaced Sept. 28, 2008, when occupational health and safety (OHS) officers received a complaint from an anonymous caller stating that demolition work had begun.
A security guard told OHS officials that demolition had started several days earlier, on Sept. 23.
Meanwhile, Terry Kelloway of Kelloway Construction told inspectors the building had been cleared and the appropriate documentation should have been sent to the OHS division.
However, OHS had no such records on file. Inspectors issued a stop-work order, to remain in effect until they were satisfied the building and debris were free of asbestos-containing materials.
Less than a week later, on Oct. 3, an OHS officer saw that the rubble pile at the site was being worked on, in contravention of the previous stop-work order. Work was stopped again.
Ultimately, the order was lifted the next day, when the contractor provided the necessary paperwork.
But a week after that, OHS and environmental enforcement staff were back at the old Janeway after receiving complaints about "excessive dust clouds emitted from the site during the latest demolition."
Inspectors observed "several suspect hazardous materials" during a walk-through of the site, and issued six safety orders.
Days later, project manager Hubert Alacoque of Kelloway Construction fired off a four-page letter appealing those orders.
"(The OHS officers) have failed to demonstrate the rubble pile at the former Janeway site is contaminated with asbestos and/or PCB, because OHS did not find a significant quantity of suspect hazardous materials in the rubble," Alacoque wrote in the Oct. 15 letter.
The contractor "removed substantially all asbestos and PCB material from the building prior to demolition," the letter continued.
Alacoque noted that the contractor did anticipate finding additional asbestos material during demolition - something that was addressed in its plan.
He concluded: "We nonetheless feel very strongly that these directives are unjustified as well as needless and excessive in the requirements that they impose on the safe and successful completion of this project."
From September through November, there were flurries of correspondence between the government, the contractor, and Kelloway's environmental consultant, St. John's-based EnviroTech Solutions, about the situation at the site.
On Nov. 25, Kimberly Dunphy, the assistant deputy minister of OHS with the Department of Government Services, wrote Alacoque to reject the Kelloway appeal.
Dunphy wrote that several samples and photographs "confirmed the presence of a significant amount of ACM (asbestos-containing materials) that remained in the debris pile."
She noted that 10 bags of asbestos were removed after workers sifted through the pile, and the contractor's environmental consultant did not recognize some fireproofing material - which remained in place during demolition - as containing asbestos.
Correspondence continued through February on possible options for the site.
The government hired local consulting firm Kavanagh and Associates Ltd. to do an assessment.
Kavanagh subcontracted Lex Scientific Inc. of Guelph, Ont., to write a report.
Lex Scientific assessed the site from March 16 to 20.
According to its report, Lex found "friable and non-friable asbestos debris, which will be disturbed if demolition activities commence."
Friable means material that is crumbly, and can be reduced to powder.
Lex Scientific reported that the presence of that debris was due to an incomplete asbestos removal carried out prior to the demolition of the old Janeway building.
Among Lex's other conclusions:
"Friable and non-friable asbestos debris is deteriorating due to weather conditions and former demolition activities";
"Asbestos debris inside a yellow asbestos waste bag was observed in one of the rubble piles, indicating that asbestos waste was not disposed properly. Tyvek suits and orange poly sheeting, which are assumed to be generated from the asbestos removal, were also observed."
"Hazardous materials such as lead, and smoke detectors containing a radioactive source were observed."
"Additional asbestos contamination may be present in areas that could not be accessed due to the limitations of this asbestos contamination assessment."
Lex Scientific recommended that all asbestos waste and contamination be removed before the restart of demolition activities.
The report also "strongly recommended" that an independent observer be on site at all times during asbestos cleanup and demolition activities to identify when more contamination is uncovered.
That is being done, according to David Salter, a spokesman for the Department of Transportation and Works.
"The department has retained independent environmental consultants to continuously monitor the work and ensure all appropriate precautions are taken and asbestos removal is in accordance with the contract and applicable regulations," Salter said in an e-mail late Friday afternoon.
All workers handling suspected asbestos-containing material must at all times wear full Tyvek suits and approved respirators, he noted.
Upon leaving the work area, all workers must go through a two-chamber decontamination unit.
According to Salter, the department expects the contractor to be finished by the end of the summer.
He indicated there are no additional moneys being paid to the contractor by the department for the extended period of work, other than the excavator rental required to complete test pits for inspection purposes.